B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains has presented a temporary sick pay program that would cover up to three days of absence for employees who do not have employer sick benefits.
The short-term program is designed to cover situations where employees have symptoms of coronavirus infection, are self-isolating or waiting for COVID-19 test results. It is to bridge the gap between when workers first feel sick and when they can have access to the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
Employers will be required to pay workers their full wages and the province will reimburse employers without an existing sick leave program up to $200 per day. The program will be available to full-time and part-time employees.
The province is moving to support employers on the cost of sick pay, Bains told the B.C. legislature Tuesday. The three-day program will continue until the end of 2021, and be followed by a permanent program to take effect at the start of 2022.
WorkSafeBC is setting up the employer reimbursement system, and is expected to administer it beginning in June. “For the small percentage of employers that have a highly paid workforce, but do not already have paid sick leave, those employers will be required to cover any remaining wages owed above $200 for each COVID-19 sick day taken,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The reimbursement system is expected to be set up using existing information technology infrastructure within 30 days. At that point, employers will be asked to register with WorkSafeBC to enable reimbursement. The program is not a part of the workers’ compensation system and will not affect WorkSafeBC’s employer premiums or its accident fund.”
The proposed legislation would allow employers to ask for “reasonably sufficient proof, although no doctor’s note is required,” the ministry said.
“This new leave will better support workers during the pandemic, giving workers three days of paid leave for circumstances related to COVID-19,” Bains said May 11. “At the same time we know we need to support businesses that are already struggling due to the pandemic, so the province will be stepping up in a major way to support employers with the costs.”
Bains said the permanent program is to take effect Jan. 1, 2022, with the terms and length of coverage to be set by regulation after consultation with employers and workers.